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Kurds and Turky latest News

1. Rebel Kurds Build Mountain Society
2. Talabani schmoozes Turks, sells out PKK
3. End confinement of Ocalan: Turkey told
4. Council of Europe calls for end to isolation of Kurdish rebel chief
5. Iraqi president says he wants strategic partnership with Turkey
6. The Internally Displaced Kurds of Turkey: Ongoing issues of responsibility, redress and resettlement
7. Protestor dies in Kurdish party-led demo in Turkey
8. Kurds vow to resist any new Turkish strike
9. In trouble for Kurdish, municipality prints posters in Chinese
10. Iraq promises Turkey curb on PKK
11. Iraq’s leader to cooperate with Turkey on PKK
12. US call for dialogue with PKK no slip of tongue
13. Will ‘AK Party-izing’ Kurds work?
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1. Rebel Kurds Build Mountain Society

In N. Iraq, Guerrillas Build a Rugged Cohesion Between Battles With Turkey
“The Turkish army could not capture any of our territory, could not get one of our bases, our weapons or even a scrap of nylon,”

By JOSHUA PARTLOW
March 9, 2008
Washington Post

ZAP VALLEY, Iraq — – On the day the Turkish soldiers withdrew from Iraq, 40 Kurdish guerrillas convened to bury five of their dead.

“The Turkish army could not capture any of our territory, could not get one of our bases, our weapons or even a scrap of nylon,” Bahoz Erdal, the 39-year-old military commander of the Kurdish guerrillas, told his compact ranks. “The Turkish army didn’t have any chance to rest. When they attacked, we hit them. When they made camp, we hit them. Even when they pulled back, we hit them.”

The conclusion of the eight-day battle Feb. 29 along Iraq’s northern border was described by Turkey’s government as the scheduled end to a successful incursion that crippled its enemies, destroying hundreds of their caves and hideouts. But, ultimately, the battle ended where it had begun, with the intractable guerrillas in sole control of hundreds of miles of mountainous terrain.
At the funeral, the quiet ending to their latest war, some guerrillas bowed their heads but no tears were shed.

“In the last 10 days in [the] Zap [Valley], our fighters displayed their historic heroism,” Erdal told his soldiers. “In this defense, you brought back again the fighting spirit of the PKK.”

A Washington Post correspondent and staff photographer who spent five days inside rebel territory during and after the battle observed a self-sufficient society, with its own rituals and traditions, that bears no resemblance to the rest of Iraq.

The guerrillas relate their struggle to those of the American revolutionaries who fought the British crown, and the Cuban guerrillas who followed Fidel Castro down from the Sierra Maestra mountains.

“We are fighting for democracy, for freedom,” said Osman Delbrine, a 32-year-old guerrilla with eight years in the mountains. “We are fighting for peace and for all Kurds in all nations.”

Their tactics can be ruthless. They slip over the border to blow up Turkish soldiers and retreat back to Iraq. It is more unusual for them to be on the defensive, protecting their territory from Turkish attack.

Leaders of the PKK, a group that numbers 4,000 to 5,000 fighters, say they are no longer fighting for an independent Kurdish state, or even to replicate or expand the semiautonomous Kurdish region in Iraq. Rather, they say, they want their people to speak Kurdish in schools, to receive national identification cards, to have equal rights for women, to avoid persecution by state security forces and to gain respect and political influence wherever they live. To walk among the guerrillas, however, is to feel some are also fighting to prolong their communal, socialist experiment and to be left alone.

“In society, in the cities, I feel like someone is choking me,” said Berivan, a 27-year-old female guerrilla. “In the mountains I feel free.”

The guerrillas sleep on bedrolls in caves or under the stars, drink spring water and eat what they can forage or smuggle in from civilization.

“Our life is totally different than yours,” one guerrilla said.

The Turkish military invasion, known as Operation Sun, began Feb. 21 with an aerial bombardment, followed by a push of a reported 2,000 ground troops in various passes across the 200-mile border Turkey shares with Iraq.

The thrust of the ground battle targeted the Zap Valley, a crucial region in the western portion of the guerrillas’ territory, home to their headquarters, training camps, underground storage rooms, burial plots, and fighters manning their Russian-made antiaircraft Dushka machine-gun positions on the snowy peaks. Erdal, the high-strung, fast-talking guerrilla commander, abandoned his medical school studies in Damascus, Syria, two decades ago to join the PKK. Since then, he has been dedicated to fighting Turkey.

“It’s not random that they are attacking this area,” he said. “The army that they brought is enough to capture an area like Zap. But when you use a very big army, it’s difficult to organize, and your movements will be slow.”

In the end, Erdal said, his guerrillas drove Turkey back down from the mountains after killing more than 120 of its soldiers; Turkey claimed to have lost 24. The disparity was larger on the guerrilla side: Erdal and several others insisted that just 10 of their own were killed; Turkey put the number at more than 230.

‘The Mountain Teaches Us’
Throughout the fighting, the hundreds of guerrillas used the same battle-tested tactics they have relied on for years: Move quickly, hit and retreat, harass and confuse the more-powerful enemy. They carry AK-47s, sniper rifles, shoulder-fired rockets and hand grenades.

“Some of our attacks required only five guerrillas, and others used 50 or 60,” Erdal said. “For example, you send five guerrillas to a huge army at night, they attack them and leave the area; then these soldiers cannot sleep until the morning. In a different situation, you use 50 or 60 guerrillas to hold a mountain.”

After President Bush met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in November to discuss the PKK problem, the guerrillas rushed to make arrangements for battle. They stashed ammunition, weapons, food and water in caves and crags throughout the mountains, for quick resupply. Inside one such cave, they installed a cylindrical, metal wood-burning stove and chimney to heat a room constructed of army green cloth and plastic tarp.

“The mountain is a school for us,” said Elif, a 32-year-old commander who dropped out of interior design school in Turkey 10 years ago to join the PKK. “The mountain teaches us how to walk, it taught us how to live in cold weather, how to go without eating for a long time,” she said. “The Turkish soldiers have huge bodies, but they can’t stay in the snow for more than a couple hours.”

In wartime the guerrillas fill various roles. There are medics with UNICEF first-aid kits, cooks and videographers, frontline fighters and logisticians. Yet they are also uniform down to the smallest details. They smoke one brand of cigarettes, Business Royales, and nearly all wear peach-colored Turkish Mekap sneakers with orange laces.

The guerrillas are not a people’s army or ad hoc insurgency, but a trained paramilitary force that requires every new recruit to attend a three-month camp to study military tactics and become indoctrinated in the ideology of the imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan. The PKK’s separatist war against Turkish authorities, which began in 1984 and lasted for a decade and a half, claimed the lives of about 35,000 people.

“We don’t want any mother in the world to have to receive the body of her dead son,” said Hadar Afreen, a 26-year-old guerrilla who grew up outside Aleppo, Syria. “We don’t want to fight; we want to be peaceful. But if they attack us, we will defend ourselves.”
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2. Talabani schmoozes Turks, sells out PKK

Bill Weinberg
Sun, 03/09/2008
AP

Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani said March 8 he seeks a “strategic” partnership with Turkey as he wrapped up a visit to Ankara aimed at easing tension sparked by the Turkish military’s eight-day incursion into Iraq last month. Speaking to members of a Turkish-Iraqi joint business group, Talabani also called on Turkish interests to invest in Iraq’s oil sector. “We want to forge strategic relations in all fields including oil, the economy, trade, culture and politics,” Talabani said. Addressing Turkish fears, Talabani stressed that Kurdish rebels would not be tolerated inside Iraq’s borders, and said Iraq was continuing to put pressure on the PKK to lay down arms.
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3. End confinement of Ocalan: Turkey told

The Council of Europe’s anti-torture body urged Turkey yesterday to end the solitary confinement of jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan,

February 7, 2008
AFP

STRASBOURG / Ankara • The Council of Europe’s anti-torture body urged Turkey yesterday to end the solitary confinement of jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, highlighting the threat to his mental health.
Observers from the pan-European rights watchdog rejected, however, suggestions by Ocalan’s relatives that he had been poisoned, in a report after visiting him on a Turkish prison-island in the Sea of Marmara in May 2007.
The 59-year-old leader of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been serving a life sentence for treason and separatism as the sole inmate on the island of Imrali since his capture and conviction in 1999.
His supporters claimed last year that he was being progressively poisoned in prison, citing test results indicating high levels of toxic metals, including chromium and strontium, in his body.
In its report, the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) confirmed high levels of heavy metals were present in Ocalan’s hair and chest-hair, but should not be “interpreted as dangerous for (his) health.”
“They are very probably linked to the individual’s environmental conditions” near the sea, and to his food habits, said the report, citing findings by CPT experts in Geneva.
But the experts warned Ocalan’s mental health “has noticeably deteriorated” since the committee’s previous visits in 2001 and 2003, due to “chronic stress and prolonged social and emotional isolation” and “a feeling of abandonment.”
They urged Turkey to “completely revise Abdullah Ocalan’s situation with the aim of integrating him into a place where contacts are possible with other prisoners and which would allow him a greater range of activities.”
The experts said he should be allowed to watch television, phone his relatives and see his lawyers alone, and receive more regular visits.
Ankara flatly rejected the Council of Europe’s demands in a written response to the report.
“The convict is the leader of a terrorist organisation that has conducted violent acts causing the death of 25,000 people,” the government wrote, arguing that the risk of Ocalan escaping was too great to consider a transfer.
Ocalan’s original death sentence was later commuted to life in prison as Turkey abolished capital punishment as part of EU-sought reforms.
Police and protesters clashed in southeastern Turkey early this month after the ninth anniversary of the rebel leader’s capture, claiming a teenager’s life, while some 10,000 Kurds protested in Strasbourg to demand his release.
The Kurdish conflict in Turkey has claimed more than 37,000 lives since 1984 when the PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, took up arms for self-rule in the southeast.
Since December 16, Turkish warplanes have carried out five bombing raids on PKK positions in northern Iraq, where the group takes refuge.
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4. Council of Europe calls for end to isolation of Kurdish rebel chief

06 Mar 2008
DPA

Strasbourg, France – The anti-torture committee of the Council of Europe said in a report Thursday that Kurdish rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan, in solitary confinement in Turkey for almost nine years, should be allowed human contact or else his mental state will deteriorate further. Ocalan, who led the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), was convicted of treason in 1999 and given a life sentence. The anti-torture committee visited him last May in his prison cell on an island in the Sea of Marmara.
The report released in Strasbourg said that a psychiatric examination of the 59-year-old showed a distinct deterioration of his mental state since visits in 2001 and 2003.
“This deterioration is connected with a situation of chronic stress and prolonged social and emotional isolation, coupled with a feeling of abandonment and disappointment,” according to the report.
Ocalan should be allowed regular contact with relatives, the report said, adding that he is in physically good condition.
The Turkish government agreed to the publication of the report.
More than 32,000 people have been killed since the PKK launched its fight for independence or autonomy for the mainly Kurdish- populated south-east. Turkey, the United States and the European Union all classify the PKK as a terrorist organization
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5. Iraqi president says he wants strategic partnership with Turkey

08/03/2008

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Iraq’s president said Saturday he was seeking a “strategic” partnership with Turkey as he wrapped up a visit aimed at easing tension sparked by Turkey’s eight-day military mission inside Iraq.
Jalal Talabani, speaking to members of a Turkish-Iraqi joint business group, also called on Turkish businesses to invest in Iraq, saying increased oil revenues had now put his country in a position where it was able to meet payments.
“We want to forge strategic relations in all fields including oil, the economy, trade, culture and politics,” Talabani said.
During a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Talabani suggested that both countries set up a body whose aim would be to strengthen ties between the neighbors. “Let’s set up a high council whose aim would be to develop and oversee relations,” Talabani said. “This council could be headed by the prime minister or the foreign minister.”
Talabani, a Kurd, arrived in Turkey on Friday to allay tensions caused by Turkey’s military operation against Kurdish rebels who launch attacks on Turkey from bases in northern Iraq. the offensive ended a week ago.
Some had feared the incident could lead to a wider conflict between the two U.S. allies.
Talabani said Kurdish rebels would not be tolerated inside its borders, and said Iraq was continuing to put pressure on them to lay down their arms.
Turkey is concerned that the example set by the Iraqi Kurds, who run a virtual mini-state within Iraq, could encourage Turkey’s Kurdish population to seek a similar arrangement.
During Turkey’s ground incursion, Iraq demanded an immediate withdrawal and warned of the potential for clashes between Turkish troops and security forces of the semiautonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. The Turkish military, which is receiving U.S. intelligence, said it inflicted heavy losses on a large group of rebels in Iraq’s Zap region. The PKK has disputed the claim.
The PKK has said it wants political and cultural autonomy for the predominantly Kurdish region of southeastern Turkey. The conflict started in 1984 and has killed tens of thousands of people.
On Saturday, Iraq’s oil minister said his government will not recognize any oil deals that the northern Kurdish self-governing region has unilaterally inked with foreign companies. “The central government is in charge of the administration of natural resources and agreements not approved by the central government will not be recognized,” Iraq’s oil minister Hussain al-Shahristani said after a meeting with Turkey’s Energy Minister Hilmi Guler.
The Kurdistan Regional Government has approved several contracts with international companies, causing tensions with the Iraqi government, which is seeking centralized control over the country’s oil resources.
Guler said the two discussed projects to transport Iraqi oil and natural gas to Turkey. “We want to give gas to Turkey and we see it as a transit country,” the state-run Anatolia news agency quoted al-Shahristani as saying.
Turkey buys oil from Iraq through a twin pipeline running from northern Iraq to a Turkish Mediterranean port. The United States supports plans for a gas pipeline from Iraq to Turkey to help meet Europe’s growing energy demands.
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6. The Internally Displaced Kurds of Turkey: Ongoing issues of responsibility, redress and resettlement

You are kindly invited to attend the forthcoming KSSO seminar in association with Kurdish society at SOAS:
‘The Internally Displaced Kurds of Turkey: Ongoing issues of Responsibility, Redress and Resettlement’

By Charlotte Alfred, Kurdish Human Rights Project,
Date: Wednesday 12 March 2008
Time: 18:00-20:00
Location: Vernon Square Campus/SOAS
Room: V211 (Nearest station: Kings Cross/Angel)
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Vernon Square Penton Rise London WC1X 9EL

The seminar will provide a background to internal displacement globally and in international law, before looking in detail at the case of internally displaced Kurds in Turkey. The seminar will discuss what international protections are in place for IDPs and assess Turkish attempts to address the IDP problem. It will further survey the ongoing difficulties facing IDPs in Turkey today.
‘The Internally Displaced Kurds of Turkey: Ongoing issues of Responsibility, Redress and Resettlement’
From the ruin of Ottoman Empire was established an imagined Turkish nation through institutionalization and standardization of Turkish history, languages and a strong sense of togetherness. The Armenians massacred (“Armenocide”), the Greeks were expelled, and Jews were sent to a labour camp to Askale (near Erzurum/ Northern Kurdistan), the remaining minorities faced “Turkisation” which is “by the ideology and the social, cultural and economic policies of an aggressive and at times racist – ethicist nationalism”( Öktem,K 2003). The “racist – ethicist nationalism” is depicted from the Anglo-American perspective as a “modernisation project” (“Modern Turkey”) in Anatolia
The creation of a Turkish nation denied the existence of Kurds, and forced them to assimilate into Turkishness. This has caused a continuous struggle between the official state ideology, Kemalism, and Kurds who form 25% of Turkey’s whole population. Because of this reason the issue of Kurdish identity and the war against Kurdish people in Turkey are key challenges to hegemonic constructions of Turkish national identity as well as the functioning of the Turkish state, both an internal and foreign policy issue for Turkey.
In 1985, as the war between the Kurdish workers Party (PKK) and the Turkish government became more severe, The Turkish state made a decision to burn and destroy Kurdish towns and villages for “security reason” or for “to root out support for the separatist organisation”. 3,500 Kurdish villages and towns has been burned, destroyed by Turkish state between 1984 and 1999 and displaced around four million Kurds which is (according to NGOs) one of the world’s largest IDP populations.
“Hundreds of thousands have crowded into shanty towns outside major cities without access to proper sanitation, health care or educational facilities, and without stable employment prospects” (Cohen and Deng, 1998). Ddiscrimination and police harassment is a part of everyday life of IDP Kurdish people in Turkey and in occupied Northern Kurdistan.
“The only local humanitarian NGO allowed to operate in the southeast has been shut down. No international NGO has been permitted entry. Even ICRC has been unable to operate in Turkey. The request of the Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons, Francis Deng, to visit the country has received no response” (Cohen and Deng,1998).
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7. Protestor dies in Kurdish party-led demo in Turkey

March 06, 2008
Hurriyet

Protestors and police clashed in eastern Turkey at a demonstration organized by pro-Kurdish party DTP, leaving one demonstrator dead and 14 police injured as the pro-Kurdish DTP claimed on Thursday he was killed by the police. The demonstrator, Mehmet Deniz, died in hospital overnight after being hit in the head with a stone in clash with police.
Tension remained high in the eastern town Ercis, Van as the mourners hurled stones at security forces in Deniz’s funeral on Thursday.
The official Anatolian Agency reported the security forces fired shots in air to disperse the crowed. Fourteen police were injured in the original clashes late Wednesday, one of them seriously, and 101 people were detained, Van police chief Mehmet Salih Kesmez told AA.
The festival, organized by DTP to celebrate the March 8 Women’s Day on Wednesday, later turned into a demonstration in favor of PKK. Police used tear gas and fired shots in the air as demonstrators chanted slogans in favor of the outlawed PKK and hurled stones at security forces, according to media reports.
DTP protested the death of Deniz, claiming he was killed by police under custody. “Our citizen Mehmet Deniz, 58, was beaten to death by a group of police officers with batons and planks after the March 8 festival held in Van’s Ercis town on Wednesday”, DTP said in a statement. “We are facing a government which has a tradition of aggressively surpassing every legitimate demand for more rights”, it added.
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8. Kurds vow to resist any new Turkish strike

March 7, 2008

DOHUK, Iraq, (AFP) – “I’m a fighter on the inside, my priority is to defend Kurdistan,” said a female college student in Dohuk, a mountainous snowbound town in far northern Iraq near the border with Turkey.
Rosshat, 24, whose name means “sunrise’ in Kurdish, is among several Iraqi Kurds in Dohuk who have vowed to take up arms for their homeland if the Turkish military strikes again.
“I’m ready to join them, nothing can prevent me if that’s what it takes,” said Roshhat, who declined to give her last name for security reasons. “Don’t be fooled by my Western clothes.”
The danger of another Turkish incursion is real after a week-long offensive that ended last week on the snowy mountains of the Zap region near the Turkish border, where Kurdish rebels have a base and a training camp.
Despite the troop pullout, Turkish army chief Yasar Buyukanit on Monday threatened further strikes on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels holed up in northern Iraq.
And on Wednesday the PKK claimed that Turkish warplanes and artillery had again fired on targets in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq — for the first time since the end of the offensive.
They said bombs and artillery shells hit targets in the Bazger valley, in the province of Arbil — the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community, has been fighting for self-rule in Kurdish-majority southeast Turkey since 1984 in a conflict that has claimed more than 37,000 lives.
Roshhat said she and her friends closely followed news of the Turkish incursion last month and had already decided to join the fight. “But Turkish troops withdrew, and the situation is back to normal,” she said.
In any case “I’m ready to go back to the mountains and leave college to fight.”
Another potential PKK recruit is Zakaryat, 23, who takes classes at the town’s technical institute. “We are tired of the bloodshed and of losing our loved ones every day,” Zakaryat said.
“Turkey must acknowledge our rights and give up their Ottoman mentality,” she added, referring to the empire based in Constantinople that ruled much of the Middle East until the end of World War I.
“How long will Turkey continue thinking like this? Haven’t they understood yet that this issue will not be solved by fighting?”
“Do they not understand that we are fighting to take revenge because they killed our families? They must know that they cannot eliminate a whole nation,” she added.
There are some 25 million people of Kurdish background in a swathe of land that encompasses areas of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.
General Ilker Basbug, commander of Turkey’s land forces, said at a recent press conference that there were two main reasons why the PKK can get recruits: “effective PKK propaganda, plus unemployment and poverty.”
Even veteran combatants like Ferat Beran, 31, say they are ready to take up arms again to “fight Turkey if it attacks Kurdistan again.”
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9. In trouble for Kurdish, municipality prints posters in Chinese

Thursday, March 6, 2008
Diyarbakır – Doğan News Agency

A municipality in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır has printed March 8 Women’s Day posters in Chinese to protest the criminal charges it faced for printing posters and invitations in Kurdish.
The Yenişehir Municipality, run by the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), printed posters in Turkish, Kurdish and Chinese. Deputy Mayor Şefik Türk said it is normal for municipalities to print posters in different languages to promote their region. Reacting to the charges, the municipality chose to print posters in Chinese as well.
The poster reads: “In the belief for a future with peace, democracy and equal sharing, we celebrate March 8 World Working Women’s Day.”
“Our municipalities constantly face investigations for printing documents in Kurdish. Our posters for the Nevruz celebrations on March 21 will also be in Turkish, Kurdish and Chinese,” he said.
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10. Iraq promises Turkey curb on PKK

BBC NEWS:
2008/03/08

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has restated that his government will not tolerate Kurdish rebels in the north launching attacks against Turkey.
Speaking on a visit to Ankara, his first trip to Turkey as leader, he said he had told regional authorities to halt the activities of PKK fighters.
He is meeting his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, to discuss the recent Turkish cross-border offensive.
Mr Gul has said Turkey cannot allow PKK attacks to continue.
His words echo those of the Turkish military which has warned it will send its troops back across the border if necessary.
“We have requested that the Kurdish administration puts pressure on PKK units to give up their weapons or leave the region,” Mr Talabani said, referring to Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region.
His visit is being seen as ground-breaking in Turkey, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford reports.
The previous Turkish president refused to invite President Talabani, who is Kurdish, because of Turkey’s suspicions Iraqi Kurds were supporting the PKK
Mr Talabani’s pledge is not new, our correspondent in Turkey adds.
It is, she says, more a re-stating of Iraq’s official position and, so far, those words have little practical effect.
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11. Iraq’s leader to cooperate with Turkey on PKK

February 7, 2008

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Iraq’s president insisted Friday that Kurdish rebels would not be tolerated inside its borders as he sought to allay tensions following neighboring Turkey’s eight-day military mission inside Iraq.
Speaking during a visit to Turkey, Jalal Talabani said Iraq was continuing to put pressure on Kurdish rebels to lay down their arms and said the two countries would discuss wide-ranging security measures to combat their threat.
The visit by Talabani, himself a Kurd, reflected diplomatic efforts to ease tensions after an operation that some had feared could spill into a wider conflict between two U.S. allies. The Turkish military ended its offensive a week ago against Kurdish rebels who launch attacks on Turkey from bases in northern Iraq.
“Iraq wants strategic and solid relations with Turkey,” Talabani said.
“We have exerted pressure. Either they should lay down arms or they should leave the area,” Talabani said. “We are going to discuss wide-ranging security agreements.”
Turkish President Abdullah Gul called on the rebels to lay down their arms, saying Turkey will never tolerate those who engage in terrorism.
Turkey launched its cross-border ground operation against rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, on Feb. 21. It pulled out eight days later.
Turkey is concerned that the example set by the Iraqi Kurds, who run a virtual mini-state within Iraq, could encourage Turkey’s own Kurdish population to seek a similar arrangement.
During Turkey’s ground incursion, Iraq demanded an immediate withdrawal and warned of the potential for clashes between Turkish troops and security forces of the semiautonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
The Turkish military, which is receiving U.S. intelligence, said it inflicted heavy losses on a large group of rebels in Iraq’s Zap region. The PKK has disputed the claim.
The PKK has said it wants political and cultural autonomy for the predominantly Kurdish region of southeastern Turkey. The conflict started in 1984 and has killed tens of thousands of people.
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12. US call for dialogue with PKK no slip of tongue

07.03.2008
Today’s Zaman Washington

The top US commander in the Middle East has suggested that dialogue between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) would solve Turkey’s problem with terrorism, a strong sign that an earlier call for talks with the PKK from a senior US commander was not a slip of tongue.
“They certainly have instigated lots of trouble, and they’ve had a lot of casualties in Turkey but the real solution here, to me, is that there’s some kind of accommodation reached with this group and with the Turks inside of Turkey, to knock this off,” Adm. William J. Fallon, commander of the US Central Command, told a House of Representatives committee hearing on Wednesday. “We certainly recognize the pain the Turks have felt from the outlawed and terrorist activities of this group, but we know that the long-term solution is some kind of an accommodation.”
Fallon’s remarks came a day after a former senior US commander in Iraq, Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, said negotiations could be conducted with the PKK after a certain period of pressure on the group. “I believe that the long-term solution in northern Iraq is not a military one. And so — but obviously there’s pressure that has to be put on them, so we can start to talk and have negotiations with these terrorist elements,” Odierno, who was second in command in Iraq for 15 months until he returned home in mid-February, said.
Turkey and the United States have managed to ease troubles in their ties after Washington promised to actively help Ankara in its fight against the PKK, considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. But US commanders’ calls for talks with the PKK are unlikely to be welcome in Ankara, which rejects outright any sort of dialogue with a terrorist group.
Fallon confirmed that the United States assisted Turkey in its recent cross-border offensives against the PKK in northern Iraq. The Turkish military has carried out several aerial offensives against the PKK targets in northern Iraq since Dec. 16. They were followed by the eight-day ground offensive, the biggest anti-PKK operation in a decade. “We provided indirect support to Turkish military intelligence, helped the incursion achieve some tactical success,” Fallon said, when asked whether the ground offensive by Turkish troops, which ended on Feb. 29, was done with US assistance, at the House session.
He however repeated that the “real key issue here is figuring out a way to have the Turks come to grips with this — the KGK, and to not just try to eliminate them militarily.” KGK stands for Kongra-Gel, another name for the PKK. “We certainly recognize the pain the Turks have felt from the outlawed and terrorist activities of this group, but we know that the long-term solution is some kind of an accommodation, to scratch some of the itches of the KGK. And so we’ll give them the help that we can, but we’re really strongly encouraging them to figure out a political solution here,” he added.
Gates: Bring moderates into political fold
US officials have long called for non-military measures to address the PKK problem. The Turkish government has said it was planning such measures to help the dissolution of the terrorist group but categorically rejects any prospects for dialogue with the PKK.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who visited Ankara last week, said at a media roundtable at the Pentagon on Wednesday that he and the Turkish officials he met in Ankara “talked a great deal about the importance of accompanying the security measures to go after the PKK terrorists with efforts to try and address some of the civilian concerns among the Kurdish population, where the PKK recruits people. And I think that both President [Abdullah] Gül and Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan have put forward proposals in the cultural, economic and political arenas to begin doing that.”
He was responding on Wednesday to a question, based on Odierno’s remarks, over whether the United States has a policy to have talks with the PKK. He said: “I don’t think that anybody — certainly nobody I talk to — was of a mind to have any conversations with the PKK. I think that the real objective is to peel away from the hard-core terrorists, those who might be reconciled and brought back into the political fold.”
Despite growing calls for a “political solution” from the Pentagon, the State Department has so far avoided making any statement. Responding to a question on the issue, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said: “We continue to urge Turkey and the government of Iraq to work with one another to confront the challenge posed by the PKK. I know there are discussions that go on on a variety of different levels on that, but certainly there’s a lot more work to do before we can end this threat to both Iraq and Turkey.”

07.03.2008
Today’s Zaman Washington
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13. Will ‘AK Party-izing’ Kurds work?

07.03.2008
MUSTAFA ERDOĞAN, STAR
Zaman Today’s

In recent times, the administration has been giving signals that it would like to “solve” the Kurdish problem through an effort to “AK Party-ize” the Kurdish community in Turkey.
The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) leadership appears to be pursuing the goal of first repeating in an even more overwhelming fashion the success it had in the July 2007 general elections, but this time around in the upcoming regional administration elections in heavily Kurdish areas and in this way paving the way for integrating Kurdish citizens first into the folds of the AK Party and then into the larger general system. If this is in fact the AK Party’s plan — to assimilate Kurdish citizens by pulling them into the AK Party first — let me underscore here my belief that this is a dead-end road.